New York Historical Society Explores Superheroes as American Mythology

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 - 12:08PM
Tuesday, 11 August 2015 - 12:08PM
New York Historical Society Explores Superheroes as American Mythology
With comic book adaptations taking over television, film, and everything else ever, superheroes are now a part of our daily lives. But superheroes have been a part of our culture for decades, and according to many cultural theorists, have served as an American mythology, similar to the Greek pantheon or Irish folk tales. Now, the New York Historical Society is explicitly drawing this parallel with a new exhibit called Superheroes in Gotham, which will come out this fall and will portray the history of superheroes as a "creative force behind a uniquely American mythology."

New York Historical Society to Explore Superheroes as American Mythology

The official description for the exhibition reads:

Opening quote
Since their introduction in the late 1930s, superheroes have been powerful role models, inspirational and enviable. Based on mythological archetypes, they reflect, respond to, and offer ways to navigate the twists and turns of modern life. Comic books are a great American art form, a cultural phenomenon born in New York City that now extends around the globe.
Closing quote


There will be three galleries in the exhibit, where the first gallery will trace the origins and rise in popularity of classic heroes like Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America and Wonder Woman, including rare copies of the first issues. The second gallery will follow the rise of comic adaptations on television, radio, and film, which have now become almost ubiquitous, so no need to explain that further. Finally, the third gallery will explore superheroes' influence on New York artists such as Philip Pearlstein, an influential realist painter who is often cited as the preeminent figure painter of the latter half of the twentieth century.

The exhibit will include rare artifacts, such as a copy of 1938's Action Comics #1, a Batmobile from the 1966 Batman TV series, and original Spider-Man drawings by Steve Ditko from Amazing Fantasy #15. The event marks the first time the Ditko drawings have been available to view outside of the Library of Congress. The galleries will also explore more modern phenomena such as fandom, con culture, and influence on contemporary New York artists. 

Opening quote
"Comics are a huge cultural force, but few remember their New York roots," Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, said in a statement. "'Superheroes in Gotham' will immerse visitors in the early days of comics and their evolution, so they can learn more about the genesis of their favorite characters, encounter new voices that continue the creative tradition today, and perhaps see aspects of their own neighborhoods imaginatively captured on the page."
Closing quote


The Superheroes in Gotham exhibit will run at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library from October 9 (just in time for New York Comic Con!) to February 21.

Via Comic Book Resources.
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